From where I stand: “I’ll never let my girl undergo FGM… I do not want her to witness the torture that I went through”
Amal Ahmed* – a wife and mother of an 11-year-old girl and three boys aged 15, 18 and 19 – lives in Dar El-Salam in Cairo governorate. When she herself was 10 years old, Ahmed’s life was turned upside down, after she and her sister were tricked by their family into undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) at the hands of a doctor at home. Since that traumatizing experience, their lives have never been the same, and they feel they cannot lead a normal life anymore.
“I was only 10 years old, but I can still remember every single moment. I can never forget that day… I was awake. I felt and saw everything.
My sister and I were at home when my mother took us both to a locked room. There was a doctor waiting inside. They tricked us… and, without anesthesia, I was forced to go through a traumatizing experience that left not only physical scars but psychological ones too.
I saw everything… I started screaming and crying so hard when I saw my sister being cut. When it was my turn, I saw the doctor holding the scalpel. My mother was holding me so hard so that I wouldn’t run away… And then it all happened. I cannot explain in words the amount of unbearable pain and fear that I went through. I was screaming so hard… but no one seems to have been hearing.
My life turned upside down… I was never able to live a normal life, as the rest of the girls. The psychological scar is still very deep.
At the age of 18, I got married and now I have four children, for whom I decided to move on. I decided to move on in order to educate my boys that respecting women is a must, and that we shouldn’t keep on inheriting bad [harmful] cultural habits without thinking. My sons are well-educated and understand the repercussions of FGM. They totally refuse it.
When my husband and mother told me that my girl should undergo FGM, I totally refused… And I told my mother: ‘You did it to me, but I’m not doing it to my daughter. I’m not going to destroy my girl’s life and kill her. I’ll never let my girl undergo FGM… I do not want her to witness the torture that I went through – ever.’
Unfortunately, FGM is widespread in my community and in rural areas. I try to raise awareness against FGM among my relatives and friends. I was very happy to see my siblings and my friends taking a step back and deciding not to make their girls undergo this trauma. I was able to convince my siblings and friends to refrain from making their girls undergo the terrible experience of FGM, and fortunately, their girls are now living a normal, happy life.
I’m so happy to know from my network at my workplace that there’s a law now that criminalizes FGM and punishes anyone engaged in this act.
I wish that everyone around the world would realize the terrible physical and psychological repercussions of FGM so that it can end – now.”
Amal’s story relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including FGM. Through its programmes, UN Women Egypt raises awareness of the effects of FGM within communities, to prevent this harmful practice. UN Women also works closely with development partners to protect the rights of women and girls and is a supporter of Egypt’s National Committee for the Eradication of FGM, which was established in 2019.
*Note: Name changed to protect the identity of the interviewee.